Up and Running

After a long stint on the sidelines, Central Coast Mariners’ DEAN HEFFERNAN is finally back to full fitness

After a long stint on the sidelines, Central Coast Mariners- DEAN HEFFERNAN is finally back to full fitness - and just in time for the race for the finals..

How happy are you to be back on the field?

Yeah, really good. It-s been a really long year, being on crutches and that. I did a lot of preseason but as soon as I got a knock on it that-s when I had to go back into plaster. For any footballer when you-re not playing or training it-s frustrating and boring, really.

That must be pretty hard; how did you spend your time on the sidelines?

I bought a house - although I planned on doing that anyway - spent time with family and friends. The gaffer gave me a few weeks off at one point, but other than that what can you do?

Must have been a great feeling to come on against Sydney a few weeks ago, then?

Felt really good - even better when we won. I hadn-t really put it on the line until I was fully fit and playing. I was just happy to be out there. I reckon I-ll be perfect for the finals. I-ve played 90 minutes for the youth, and just under half against Sydney and then the last three, so I should be pretty close and it can only get better.

How-s your touch after so long out?

It-s more that everything-s a bit quicker. You can play all you want but when you get into a game, everything-s so fast and you have to make split-second decisions, and that-s coming along in the last couple of games. I-m pretty confident I-ll be ready to go in the New Year. Everyone-s happy, everyone-s training hard, we-ve almost got the full squad on deck and there-s a lot of competition for places.

It-s a big loss losing a player like Mile Jedinak at this stage of the season though…

Yeah, he-s going to be hard to replace. He-s a very good player, he-s been outstanding for us all year, He-s the best at training and the best on the weekend and that-s why he-s gone overseas. It-s always going to be tough to replace him but on the other hand it-s good to see him go over to Europe.

Is there a little bit of envy on your part? Is another shot at Europe in the back of your mind?

It-s not envy; if anything it-s more like motivation. It-s good to see someone working hard as a player make his way overseas, and I-m petty sure if he keeps working as he did here, he-ll be on the up. For any player here in Australia who wants to play in Europe, it helps to motivate you to improve to get back over there.

Looking ahead, the Mariners look well placed for a tough finals run-in, especially in the next few weeks.

The gaffer likes to take things on a weekly basis; we don-t try to get too far ahead of ourselves. We-re getting some good results; we-ve almost got a full squad. If we get a couple of results now, we-ll be up playing with Adelaide for the top spot in the last games of the season. We always aim high and a lot of the time we get there.

There must be a degree of confidence in the squad, given the team-s stability and previous finals experiences.

Exactly. That-s one of the things the gaffer-s drilled into us from day one. We-re a hard-working team, we press teams and we-ve been in this situation before and won the league last year - we were unlucky not to win the final but hopefully this time we can go one better.

So it-s just a case of taking the next step this time?

Yeah, of course. There-s more hunger in the team - that-s never been a problem for us. We-re desperate, we-re going to be desperate in every game from now on to get into the final and we-ll give it everything we-ve got to get that grand final win we-ve missed out on for the last three years.